Monday, February 28, 2011

Daring Cooks Make Cold Soba Salad and Tempura

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including,, and

I neglect you pretty much all month (or two) with sporadic postings and then I suddenly come up with three in a matter of two days?  What is the world coming to?  I know that I am a bit late posting my completed February challenge, and since it is a short month I'm really getting it up last minute, but even though I put up our meal plan earlier today I wanted to make sure I had this post in February.  It's the little things (like posting a February Challenge in March) that would keep me up at night, tormenting me.  Oddly enough, I made the challenge several days before the posting date but since I did not have the opportunity to post about it before it is still a late challenge.

Back in November I put General Tso's Chicken on the meal plan.  For various reasons, probably because of the holidays, we never made it.  General Tso's Chicken happens to be one of Hey, Babe's two favorite meals, and so instead of letting it drop out of existence, it made its way back onto the menu for January (I didn't even pretend it was going to happen in December, I knew better).  Once again, it didn't happen.  I don't really care for deep frying, and if a meal is going to get skipped it is going to be one I'm not thrilled about preparing.

February rolled around and it once again appeared on our meal plan.  In this case, however, I knew that it was not going to be skipped over.  The two strong reasons compelling me to be sure it was made were the fact that it was Hey, Babe's birthday and he was looking forward to one of his favorites for dinner, and the knowledge that I could kill two birds with one stone and use the challenge of making tempura as the base for the General Tso's chicken.

Unfortunately, the cold Soba salad was not well received.  None of us cared for it at all and I ended up just tossing it.  I hate to waste food like that but since no one was going to eat it there was no real other choice.  The tempura battered chicken, however, was excellent.  I loved how easy it was to mix it together and batter the chicken.  The sauce I used to turn it into General Tso's came together well, but I think next time I'll let it get a little thicker.  It was overall very satisfying and the tempura worked wonderfully.

For the challenge recipes, please visit the Daring Kitchen website.  To make General Tso's chicken, add the following sauce recipe to Tempura Battered Chicken:

Sauce for General Tso's Chicken
3/4 cup chicken broth canned
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Molasses
1/3 cup Soy Sauce or Soy substitute
1/4 cup white or apple cider Vinegar
1/4 cup dry Sherry
2 tablespoons Cornstarch
1" knot fresh Ginger peeled & grated
4 scallions, chopped
4 Garlic cloves minced
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (or less if you don't like it too spicy) 

Whisk together broth, sugar, molasses, soy sauce, vinegar, and sherry. 

Spray a wok or non-stick skillet with oil. Cook ginger, scallions, garlic and red pepper flakes for about 2-3 minutes. Add more oil if necessary.

Whisk the cornstarch into your sauce bowl to create a slurry before adding it to the skillet. Heat the sauce until boiling, add the cooked tempura chicken and then reduce to a simmer for a few minutes to coat the chicken pieces.  Serve over rice with steamed broccoli on the side.

March Meal Plan

With the end of February I hope we are also seeing the end of Winter.  It has been a rather rough one for us what with the flu and colds and stomach viruses plaguing our household.  This is the first month in a while that has not caught me by surprise, but it is no wonder since I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of Spring.  We have been teased with gorgeous, no-jacket weather a few times only to receive more snow and rain.  It sometimes feels like a cruel joke.  Today Little Man and I are suppose to start the first of the seeds for the veggie garden so I have great hope that Spring is firmly on it's way.  Perhaps once Spring has thoroughly overtaken winter we will have less sickness in the house, which will mean less time spent being a frazzled nursemaid and more time to sort through my backlog of recipes that I am itching to share.  Here is our plan for the coming month:

Mon. Tues. Wed. Thur. Fri. Sat. Sun.

Veggie Burgers, Baked Sweet Potato Fries Spinach Lasagna Pizza potluck game night Buffalo Chicken Wings, Fries, Salad Salmon Salad Sandwiches
Italian Chicken Wraps Spanikopita & Greek Salad Crispy Fish Tacos Make Ahead French Toast Casserole Spaghetti & Meatballs Omelet, Home Fries Salmon Salad Sandwiches
Chicken Tortellini Soup Spinach, Cheddar & Mushroom Quesadillas &
Sweet Potato Black Bean Soup
Pesto Stuffed Shells Corned Beef, Colcannon, Soda Bread Chili & Matzo Chicken Stir Fry Salmon Salad Sandwiches
Yeast Raised Waffles, Sausage Chicken Enchiladas Fried Fish Sandwiches Chicken Caesar Salad Sarah's Cabbage Soup Southwestern Egg Rolls Salmon Salad Sandwiches
Potato Soup Chicken Curry over Rice Slumgullion Taco Salad

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Daring Bakers make Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

All month I have been putting off making this challenge for the simple reason that I didn't want to be the only one to eat it.  Hey, Babe isn't really big on dessert (so he claims) and insists that he pretty much just sticks to cookies.  Since the deadline for the challenges was very helpfully coinciding with our plans to visit my family, I was pleased to started whipping everything together.  I hadn't anticipated any trouble.  Since it just looked like a soft pudding to me, I thought it would be a cinch to make.

Actually, the Panna Cotta really was simple.  I didn't have any trouble tweaking it to make the coconut version I had visions of.  The trouble came when I tried to create a recipe for chocolate geleé.  You see, my vision included a chocolate geleé layered with creamy coconut Panna Cotta and served with a crispy almond Florentine cookie alongside.  Things didn't quite turn out the way I had planned.  The chocolate geleé never actually set, which I discovered as I was ready to pour my assembled Panna Cotta into the dishes.  On top of that, Hey, Babe became miserably ill with his second stomach virus in a month while I was in the middle of preparations.  It turns out that I won't be having anyone to share my incredible dessert with after all since we did not feel inclined to spread the plague to another household and opted instead to stay home. 

At the last minute I poured my coconut panna cotta into two large bowls and only one of the prepared glasses with the chocolate not-quite-geleé.  Since the one I poured into the glass didn't really layer nicely I feel it was a wise choice.  The chocolate not-really-at-all-geleé-now-that-I-think-about-it I simmered in a pot until it became a much thicker chocolate sauce.  Tasty, but not what I had planned.  The combination between the two was absolutely perfect.  The bitterness of the chocolate subdued the sweetness of the panna cotta and danced together with the coconut in perfect harmony.  It was exactly as I had hoped.  The Florentine cookies added a pleasant crumbly crunch to an otherwise silky smooth experience and all in all I am completely satisfied with the results.  The only shame was the lack of any appreciative audience to share it with.

To the given recipes I made the following changes:
-Substituted 1 can (2 cups) of coconut milk for the 1 cup of milk and 1 of the cups of heavy cream
-Substituted sugar for the honey (I wasn't sure how strong the coconut flavor was going to be and so I didn't want to take any chane that the honey would distract from it)
-Added 2/3 cup of chopped almonds to the cookies
-Substituted almond flour/meal for the all purpose flour (I think it made them quite crumbly but I liked them that way)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Daring Bakers Make Biscuit Joconde Imprimes, part Two

Our happy plans of celebrating some birthdays with this marvelous dessert over the weekend were shot to pieces when Hey, Babe came home from work with a stomach virus.  I suddenly found myself with an enormous dessert and no one to share it with, though I really can't complain about that part.  It is unfortunate that the change in plans happened so last minute, if the party had been canceled sooner I would have been able to put off making it, make a smaller version, or even try to freeze it right away.  However, that wasn't the case.

I wasn't sure how well the mousse was going to freeze since I've never tried it before.  Some Google searching didn't give me any promising reports for a mousse made with gelatin, noting weeping and separating in some cases.  Not only that, but I had no idea how to package the mousse to protect it in the freezer.  I didn't have a big enough container to fit it in as a whole and I was afraid that anything I could wrap it in would just stick to it and ruin it.  So I just ate the whole thing myself.

I'm kidding! Although I really could have because whoa, it was the best one I've made to date.  I ended up cutting the mousse into pieces and freezing them in smaller containers and when I defrost a piece I will be able to find out how well this particular recipe freezes for future reference.  I had hope that Hey, Babe would recover quickly so I optimistically left a piece out for us to share.  Hey, Babe not recovering fast enough, plus the fact that Little Man also caught the bug, plus the mountains of gross laundry that resulted from all that sent me to the fridge often to console myself.  Needless to say, the unfrozen piece is long gone.  Poor Hey, Babe will have to wait until I defrost another piece before he can try it.

At first I wasn't sure that the caramel layer came through over the strong flavor of the white-mocha layer.  After several taste tests I have decided that it doesn't (and really can't) come through over the mocha layer, but it definitely complements it.  I am pretty sure that this is my new favorite triple mousse cake.  And thanks to some unfortunate luck on Hey, Babe's part, I will get to eat it several more times.  Hmm, I wonder how it tastes frozen?

Triple Layer Mousse
Milk Chocolate Mousse:
10 oz. Milk Chocolate
1 1/2 c. Heavy Cream
1 tsp. unflavored Gelatin
2 Tb. cool Water

White Chocolate-Mocha Mousse:
10 oz. White Chocolate
1 tsp. unflavored Gelatin (or 2 sheets)
1 1/2 c. Heavy Cream
1 ½ TB. Instant coffee granules

Caramel Mousse:
For the caramel:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
For the mousse base:
1 tsp powdered gelatin
2 tsp cool water
1 egg yolk
1 TB sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup heavy cream

For the Milk Chocolate Mousse:
Chop the milk chocolate and place it in a double boiler. Pour ½ c. of the heavy cream over the chocolate and allow the gentle heat of the simmering water below melt the chocolate. Stir the chocolate and cream mixture until smooth.

While the chocolate is melting, pour the 2 TB of cool water into a small dish and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let sit until the gelatin has completely dissolved and begins to thicken into a gel. Add the gel and stir it into the milk chocolate mixture until it has completely melted. Allow chocolate mixture to begin cooling so it does not melt the whipped cream you will be adding.

Using your mixer, whip the remaining 1 c. of heavy cream to soft peaks. Check the chocolate, you want it around 80°F or cool but not stiff. Add about half of the whipped cream to the melted chocolate, whisking and folding gently until it is incorporated. Fold in the remaining whipped cream once the first half is whisked in. When the chocolate and cream are evenly blended, pour the mousse into your chosen vessel. I had a layer of the Joconde cut to the size of my Springform pan and placed in the bottom. But this can also be poured over a flourless dark chocolate cake, or into glasses to be served individually. Smooth the top and put in the fridge.

For the White Chocolate-Mocha Mousse:
Wait around 20 minutes after the first mousse was made before you begin to give it a bit of time to set and then proceed in the exact same manner as the first mousse with the exception of adding the coffee granules to the ½ cup of heavy cream before pouring over the white chocolate (unless you prefer to leave the white chocolate mousse plain, in which case omit the coffee). Pour the finished white chocolate mousse over the previous layer and place back in the fridge.

For the Caramel Mousse:
For the caramel:
Place the sugar in a small heavy bottomed saucepan set over high heat. Cook until the sugar has melted and is beginning to turn darker in color. Remove from the heat (the residual heat from the bottom of the pan will continue cooking it until it is a darker color) and add the heavy cream and butter. Stir with a wooden spoon until completely smooth, add the salt and stir a bit more until it is incorporated. Scrape out into a small bowl and set aside.

Prepare the mousse base:
Measure the cool water into a small dish and sprinkle the gelatin over top to soften. Set aside. In the now empty caramel pot, whisk the egg yolk with the sugar until very pale. Add the milk and vanilla and heat slowly over medium heat until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the softened gelatin and stir until it all dissolves into the cream. Add the waiting caramel back to the pot and whisk well to combine. Let cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Carefully whisk and fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the caramel base. Continue on and gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream. Pour the finished caramel mousse over the previous layer, smoothing carefully. Allow the assembled layers of mousse to chill in the fridge at least an hour (a few more would be better) before serving.
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